Europe Is The Land Of The MiMs

The MiM student population at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain is about 25% Spanish — and 75% international. IE photo

What is a MiM course like? Again, it depends. On courses where all or most of the students come from the same country or background, they will tend to start with a similar skill set and so can all be taught more or less the same course. For those such as WHU that recruit from over 40 schools in many countries, there has to be more flexibility to address students’ varying strengths and weaknesses. Whatever the starting point, the aim is to give students a solid, general business grounding. 

“The focus is on giving students a broad and rigorous foundation in the core management disciplines, which includes data analytics, finance, strategy, accounting, marketing, and so on,” says Gareth Howells, executive director of the MBA, MiF & Early Career programs at London Business School. Just like an MBA, many schools offer courses in interpersonal, numerical and digital skills, which can include computer programming, Howells says. Most MiMs have projects with local businesses, field trips and immersion experiences. 

But a MiM differs from an MBA in several respects. For a start, the teaching style tends to be more didactic.

“In the MBA, it’s usually far more open, and you choose your path, but the MiM to some extent is guided,” says Kiron Ravindran of IE. Whatever their undergraduate education, MiM students are alike in having little experience of the working world, so the course tends to be more academic than an MBA, where students typically have around six years’ experience and a range of skills and experiences picked up during their career, and the pedagogy revolves around case studies, teamwork, and sparking self-knowledge. MiMs tend to be more structured and focused on delivering knowledge. 


London Business School’s Gareth Howells. Courtesy photo

One area where this can be seen in practice is the number of electives MiMs typically offer. While an MBA might take a dozen electives, a MiM student might take just three. Of course, this varies between schools. Institutions with a large number of specialized master’s courses can be pretty sure that someone who chose their MiM is interested in general management. Other schools which don’t offer a host of specialized alternatives might offer electives in (say) data analytics or luxury goods management, to make sure there’s something for everyone. This is not to say that a MiM’s focus on core subjects mean it is inflexible. Schools are constantly adding courses in hot new subjects like digital disruption or analytics, and because they already have experts teaching these subjects to MBAs in depth, they are able to develop MiM-level courses very quickly. 

What do MiM students say about their motivations for taking the qualification? Mate Kovacs, a Hungarian currently studying on the CEMS MiM and based at RSM in Rotterdam, says: “A MiM is a very European thing to do. People in my peer group think that they are not complete once they’ve done their undergraduate degree, and an obvious next step is to do your master’s. It feels like a continuation. I think for some students the MiM is a chance to re-brand themselves. I did my undergraduate degree in Hungary at a not-very-well-known institution, and I’m hoping that now recruiters will see me as a graduate of RSM. I think a lot of students who went to smaller universities see a MiM as a chance to go to a bigger university to finish their education.” RSM, like many schools, offers a low price to EU students, and its 18-month duration appeals to students keen to get into the world of work.  

Someone with a different story is Mat Schuck, an American who is taking the MiM at ESSEC in France. He has worked for a French company in the states, and after meeting French people who were living in the U.S. made me think that one day he might fancy the expat life. After graduating with an engineering degree, he worked for two years but decided that life as an engineer was not for him. He didn’t have the experience for an MBA, but decided that a MiM in Europe would kill two birds with one stone. 

“I realized that I didn’t want to be an engineer for my whole career. I like working with people, so I thought that a general management qualification would be the route to that,” Schuck says. “My only concern is that back in the U.S. employers might not recognize a MiM, so I’m looking at getting my first job after graduation, at least, in France.”


For many students the MiM is a way to change course and widen their worldview in other ways, too. “An example of how the MiM can change your perspective is one of my students, an IT engineer, who said to me that in the past if he had been told that an ATM had broken down, he would have only looked at the technical, mechanical side,” says RSM’s Irma Bogenrieder. “But now he says he would see it from a client perspective, from a communications perspective, and from the perspective of which internal organisational processes would you need to fix the problem. These students learn to take a broader view.” 

The MiM is clearly the dominant general management business degree in Europe. But how is the MiM landscape changing? Perhaps one evolution is that schools are becoming more open to the idea of taking students with a bit of work experience onto their MiMs, as well as the traditional pre-experience crowd. “Years ago universities said that you had to do your master’s straight after a bachelor’s, and you couldn’t have a gap in between, but now universities often allow students with two or even three years’ experience,” says WHU’s Steffen Loev. 

This is having a knock-on effect on European MBAs. Although the MBA has never been as popular in Europe as it is in the U.S., or even the UK, it was seen as a qualification for businesspeople to deepen their knowledge. Increasingly in Europe, it is being squeezed by the MiM and is now coming to be seen as something for people with no business training who are looking for a career change. For many reasons, the MiM’s reputation as the gold standard of European business education is here to stay. 


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